The Metro began operating in Moscow in 1935 with a single 11 km line connecting just thirteen stations, but it has since grown into the world’s fourth busiest transit system, spanning more than 300 kilometers and offering 188 stops along the way.
The Moscow Metro was one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects, with stations constructed as luxurious “palaces for the people”. Built under the command of Stalin, the iron-fisted leader ordered the metro’s artists and architects to design a structure that embodied svet (radiance or brilliance) and svetloe budushchee (a radiant future). He directed his architects to design structures which would encourage citizens to look up, admiring the station’s art, as if they were looking up to admire the sun and—by extension—him as a god. With their reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, many Moscow Metro stations have been likened to an “artificial underground sun”.
The art includes bas-reliefs, friezes, marble and bronze statues, stained-glass windows and countless mosaics made with glass, marble and granite in good Byzantine fashion. You can find the images of the former revolutionary and historical characters, their victories, sports, industry, agriculture, and warfare, as well as of common Soviet people such as workers, soldiers, farmers, and students.
Russia’s glorious architectural movement came to an end in 1955 after the Communist Party issued a decree eliminating “extravagance in design and construction.” After Stalin’s death in 1953 and the subsequent process of destalinization, his images were gradually withdrawn from the Moscow Metro. Sculptures were taken to storage facilities, and mosaics and reliefs were simply removed. New stations that were built during this time were devoid of any stucco work, mosaics, original columns or other “unjustified” elements. The party had a new theme - “Kilometers at the expense of architecture.”
Fortunately, the original architecture of the early stations were left intact, which, after all these years still look amazing.
Also see: Artistic Stockholm Subway System
Komsomolskaya Metro Station
Komsomolskaya opened in 1935. The station has tall pillars faced with pinkish limestone and blue-grey marble and the floor is tiled with grey granite. The imposing Baroque celling, painting in yellow is decorated with eight mosaic panels of smalt and precious stones. The theme of the panels represent the Russian fight for freedom and independence throughout history.
Novoslobodskaya Metro Station
Built in 1952, Novoslobodskaya is best known for its 32 stained glass panels, which are the work of Latvian artists E. Veylandan, E. Krests, and M. Ryskin. Each panel, surrounded by an elaborate brass border, is set into one of the station's pylons and illuminated from within. Both the pylons and the pointed arches between them are faced with pinkish Ural marble and edged with brass molding. At the end of the platform is a mosaic by Pavel Korin entitled "Peace Throughout the World."
Mayakovskaya Metro station
Mayakovskaya is considered to be one of the most beautiful station in the system. Based on a Soviet future as envisioned by the poet Mayakovsky, the station features graceful columns faced with stainless steel and pink rhodonite, white Ufaley and grey Diorite marble walls, a brilliant flooring pattern of white and pink marble, and 35 niches, one for each vault. Surrounded by filament lights there are a total of 34 ceiling mosaics by Alexander Deyneka with the theme "24-Hour Soviet Sky." A passenger can look up and see the bright Soviet future right above him.
Located 33 meters beneath the surface, the station became an air raid shelter during World War 2. On the anniversary of the October Revolution, on 7 November 1941 Joseph Stalin addressed a mass assembly of party leaders and ordinary Muscovites in the central hall of the station.
Elektrozavodskaya Metro Station
Named after the electric light bulb factory nearby, the ceiling of Elektrozavodskaya is covered with six rows of circular incandescent inset lamps of which there were 318 in total. There are 12 marble bas-reliefs on the pylons highlighting the nation’s struggle in the World War. Other pylons carry decorative gilded grilles depicting hammer and sickle.
Shosse Entuziastov Station
The design theme of the station is the struggle for freedom during Russia's history. Shosse Entuziastov station is decorated in various colours and shades of marble, with colours ranging from dark grey to yellow. Sculptures and pictures relating to revolutionary subjects adorn the walls. On the western end of the central hall there is a large sculpture — "Flame of Freedom" — designed by A. Kuznetsov.
Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station
Ploshchad is decorated with 76 sculptures one cut into each corner of each column, arranged thematically moving from parents with their children to athletes, students to farmers, industrial workers to hunters to soldiers. There is also a frontier guard with a dog whose nose people rub for good luck.
Nakhimovsky Prospekt Metro Station
Park Pobedy Metro Station
Park Pobedy metro station. Photo credit
Victory Park Station
Victory Park Metro Station. Photo credit
This is part of the artwork in the Victory Park metro. A mural of Kutuzov, considered to be one of the best Russian generals during the reign of Catherine the Great. Under Kutuzov's command, the Russian army stopped Napoleon's Grande Armée at the Battle of Borodino and then counter-attacked, pushing the French out of Russians. Photo credit
Prospekt Mira Metro Station